Shankar Jaikishan (also known as S-J), were an Indian duo who composed music for the Hindi film industry, working together from 1949 to 1971.
Shankar-Jaikishan, along with other artists, composed “everlasting” and “immortal melodies” in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Their best work was noted for being “raga-based and having both lilt and sonority”.
Shankar Singh s/o ram singh (15 October 1922 – 26 April 1987) was a native of telangana, and spent his early years in Hyderabad. During his formative years, Shankar played the tabla and learned the art formally from Baba Nasir Khansahib. For many years, Shankar studied as a disciple of the legendary composer Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, in whose orchestra he performed.
Shankar started his career with a theater group run by Satyanarayan and Hemawati, before shifting to Prithvi Theatre where he played tabla and performed some minor roles in plays. Shankar worked as assistant to the leading composer duo of Husnlal Bhagatram.
Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal (4 November 1929 – 12 September 1971) belonged to Bansda (Vansada), Gujarat. Jaikishan was adept at playing the harmonium. Subsequently, he obtained his musical lessons from Sangeet Visharad Wadilalji and later from Prem Shankar Nayak. After moving to Mumbai, he became a disciple of Vinayak Tambe.
Apart from working at Prithvi theaters, Shankar used to frequently visit the office of a Gujrati director Chandravadan Bhatt who had promised Shankar a break as a Music Director when he produced a film. It was outside the office of Bhatt that Shankar saw Jaikishan a number of times. One day, he started a conversation and discovered that Jaikishan was a harmonium player, and that he too was visiting the same producer in search of work. Shankar later recollected that they developed a liking for each other and it was he who then and there assured Jaikishan of the job of a Harmonium player at Prithvi theaters (without asking Prithviraj Kapoor, fondly referred to as ‘Papaji’). Papaji honoured Shankar’s selection and gladly accepted Jaikishan as a Harmonium player at Prithvi. Soon, the two of them developed very close friendship to the extent that the people started referring to them as ‘Ram-Lakshman’ ki jodi and by several similar-meaning nicknames. Apart from following their musical pursuits, they also used to play significant roles in various plays including the famous play “Pathan”.
While working in Prithvi Theaters, Shankar and Jaikishan used to compose tunes and were in touch with Raj Kapoor, who was working as an assistant to the famous director Kidar Sharma and was aspiring to be an actor/director. Thus, the three had met at Prithvi Theater.
Raj Kapoor made his debut as a director with the film Aag in 1948. Its music director Ram Ganguly was assisted by Shankar and Jaikishan. However, during the recording of a song for his new venture Barsaat, Raj Kapoor had some serious differences with Ram Ganguly and decided to assign its music to Shankar who insisted on taking Jaikishan as his partner. Thus came into existence the new pair of music directors named ‘Shankar-Jaikishan’ who composed the music for the film.
Himself being a trained singer (he and Mukesh learned vocal music from the same Guru), Raj Kapoor thus took on board a new team of composers Shankar and Jaikishan and lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri (a former bus conductor). On the insistence of Shankar, he and SJ co-opted the upcoming singing talent Lata Mangeshkar, and repeated Mukesh as Raj Kapoor’s ghost voice for the various songs of Barsaat.
The film also had the distinction of featuring two firsts in Hindi cinema — a title song (“Barsaat Mein Humse Mile”) and a cabaret (“Patli Kamar Hai”).
S-J formed a core team with lyricists Shailendra (himself regarded as perhaps the greatest of his ilk) and Hasrat Jaipuri and with singers Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. SJ had two other lifelong companions who worked as their assistants: Dattaram Wadkar and Sebastian D’Souza, the former supervising their rhythm section and the later writing musical notations for all SJ compositions (during SJ’s musical sittings as can be seen in a number of photographs of such sessions) and then rehearsing all the musicians of the grand SJ orchestra according to SJ’s compositions and directions. SJ also patronized the immensely talented singer Manna Dey, who sang his best songs with them and used Mukesh’s silken voice as playback for Raj Kapoor. Among the directors, they worked most closely with Raj Kapoor and were considered the kingpins of his legendary banner RK Films.
They were commercial geniuses in addition to be wonderfully god-blessed on music. They lead the Bollywood music in spite of tough competition from maestros like Roshan, SD Burman, OP Nayyar and Madanmohan and remained on the top much to the chagrin of very highly talented music directors!
S-J worked with almost all singers of their time. They had a good working relationship with all of them and were masters in extracting the very best from every one of them. They were steady as a team with Hasrat Jaipuri & Shailendra as their lyricists; but after the demise of Shailendra, they worked with a host of other lyricists such as Indeevar, Gulshan Bawra, Neeraj, Verma Malik, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Vithhal Bhai Patel and Rajinder Krishan, to name a few.
S-J were the “house composers” for RK Films and were on their pay-roll till the end. Raj Kapoor used to maintain a music bank where he stored compositions of S-J.Even after the termination of the professional association between Shankar and Raj Kapoor (Jaikishan had died by then), the latter had used a number of S-J’s earlier compositions (which were in his custody) for all his films though the credits were given officially to other composers, e.g., Laxmikant Pyarelal (Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Prem Rog) and Ravindra Jain (Ram Teri Ganga Maili). S-J also worked with other stars like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Kishore Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee, Dharmendra & Manoj Kumar.Beside them S-J combo works above all of with Mohd Rafi and secondly Mukesh, produced numbers of hits and unmatchable gems. Mohd Rafi was their favourite singer despite having good reputation with other playback singers of its time.
Most of S-J’s films show Dattaram and Sebastian as their assistants. Dattaram handled the percussion section of the orchestra and composed original beats, and Sebastian handled the rest. Shankar met Dattaram when the latter was a page boy at Prithvi Theatres and stayed with him throughout. As recalled by Dattaram, Sebastian composed the musical background of most of S-J’s songs and also conducted the orchestra. Thus S-J were fortunate to have top quality assistants and used their talents well.
Shankar-Jaikishan’s compositions broke new ground in Hindi film music. Apart from relying upon their knowledge of Indian classical music, they also employed western beats and orchestration. Shankar-Jaikishan were the pioneers in establishing the role of the orchestra in song compositions as a medium to express and enhance the meanings and feelings of songs rather than using it just as a `filler’ as per the prevalent practice before their advent on the scene. They made use of the orchestra and musical instruments (often dozens or hundreds of them) in their songs which consisted of the following format: The song starts with a `prelude’ (preparatory music to create and introduce the environment and mood for the beginning of the song), then the mukhda starts and is followed by ‘interlude’ containg music pieces on the orchestra. With very few exceptions(“Ye mera deewana pan hai” is a good example), they always used different interludes before each stanza. ‘Multi-layered’ music studded with counter melodies’ played by the orchestra accompanied while the mukhda or the antara of a song was being sung and finally came the `epilogue’ – the music with which the song ended after the singer(s) had finished their singing.
Shankar-Jaikishan made a significant contribution in promoting Indian classical music throughout their career. It was their established practice to have at least one song in a movie based on semi-classical style. These included songs like `Jhanak-jhanak tori baje payaliya’ (Mere Huzoor), `Chham chham baje re payaliya’ (Jane-anjane), `Radhike tune bansari churayi’ (Beti Bete), `Manmohana bade jhoothe’ (old `Seema’), `Koi matwala aya mere dware’ (Love in Tokyo), `Ajahu na ayae baalma, sawan beeta jaye’ (Sanjh aur Savera), `Lapak jhpak tu aa re badarwa’ (Boot polish), `Ye barkha bahar sautaniya ke dwar’ (Mayur pankh), `Re man sur mein ga’ (Lal pathar), `Sooni sooni sans ke sitar par’ (Naina), `Kate na kate raina’ (Mera naam joker) and numerous others. Their music in `Basant Bahar’ and Amrapali both of which had every song based upon Indian classical music. While “raga Bhairavi” remained their perennial favorite, SJ used a variety of Raagas in their compositions.
Shankar Jaikishan also used the western classical-based waltz rhythm in a number of songs.
Shankar-Jaikishan gave a new style and meaning to the genre of sad songs by composing them on a fast tempo. Songs like “Zindagi Mein Hardam Rota Hi Raha” (Barsaat), “Tera Jana Dil Ke Armanon” (Anari), “Haye Tu Hi Gaya Mohe Bhool Re” (Kathputli), “Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal’ (Daag) and “Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raate” (Patita) demonstrated this. The last two songs, along with many others (notably “Awaara Hoon” from the film Awaara), also demonstrate the composers’ use of musical instruments – a harmonium is used to produce the effect of a piano accordion.
working as a team, Shankar and Jaikishan used to compose their songs separately. Generally, Shankar liked to work with Shailendra and Jaikishan with Hasrat Jaipuri though there are notable instances where Shankar worked with Hasrat and Jaikishan with Shailendra. Between the two, Shankar was the senior partner and hence, he would usually arrange the orchestra, even for Jaikishan’s songs. There was a gentleman’s agreement between them for not identifying the actual composer of the song. As a result, it has been a popular pastime for S-J aficionados to try to tell a Shankar song from a Jaikishan song. Dance numbers, title/theme songs and soulful songs were Shankar’s forte while Jaikishan was a master of composing background score, apart from romantic songs (he is generally regarded as the best ever in this genre) and simple, catchy compositions which became instant hits (“Ehsaan Mere Dil Pe” being a typical example of such songs). However, Shankar was no less in this aspect of devising simple ‘straight line’ tunes: “Mera Joota Hai Japani” (Sri 420) being the best example of this genre.
It is said that Jaikishan would count some numbers on his fingers before coming up with the background score for a particular scene on the spot! Two of S-J’s films, viz., Sangam (1964) and Mera Naam Joker (1971) are regarded even today as having some of the best background musical scores of Hindi films till date. Although, by and large, it was Jaikishan who used to work on background music of SJ movies as per their mutually agreed division of work, it may be an over-simplification to presume that therefore, whatever went in background scores was solely Jaikishan’s creation. Since SJ had a common pool of tunes in their stock, made by either of them during their numerous music sessions/sittings (Riyaz), it was perfectly legitimate and natural for Jaikishan to have used tunes created by Shankar also wherever needed. It is understood that in RK films, Shankar and Jaikishan both used to work on the background scores. On the other hand, both Shankar and Jaikishan were equally proficient in scoring western music based songs.
Despite their distinct working styles and preferences, it is very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to ascribe most of their songs to only one of them. In most of the songs, they invariably contributed to one another’s creation, either in the form of improvisation of tune or of orchestration, thus, making their compositions truly a joint effort. Furthermore, each of the two could compose in other’s style now and then thereby making the identification still more difficult.
Contrary to the popular mis-conception that `it was Jaikishan who used to handle the public relations and business/financial aspects of the duo’s career’, the fact is that it was Shankar who had the final say on all financial/business aspects of the SJ-team.
Shankar Jaikishan made a major contribution towards the development of jazz music in India and the new genre Indo jazz. Their 1968 album Raaga-Jazz style is the earliest Indo-jazz recording in India. In this album, considered to be one of the most innovative, SJ created 11 songs based on Indian Ragas with saxophone, trumpet, sitar (by Rais Khan), tabla, bass etc
During their career, S-J won Filmfare Best Music Director Awards nine times. The last three awards were won in three successive years, thereby making S-J the first composers to score a hat trick of these awards.
S-J also came out tops in Binaca Geetmala, the legendary countdown radio program on Hindi film music, where their compositions were declared the most popular on six occasions (a record later equaled by Laxmikant Pyarelal). These songs were “Mera Joota Hai Japani” in 1955 (Shree 420), “Teri Pyari Pyari Surat Ko” in 1961 (Sasural), “Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh Par” in 1962 (Junglee), “Bol Radha Bol” in 1964 (Sangam), “Baharon Phool Barsaao” in 1966 (Suraj), and “Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana” in 1971 (Andaaz). In 1959, seven of the top ten songs for the year were composed by S-J, a sort of record that stands perhaps to this date, though the top honors for that year went to SD Burman.
In a signed article in Filmfare, Jaikishan identified unwittingly the song “Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padh Kar” (Sangam) as ‘his’ composition. This led to a lot of bitterness between the two, as Shankar considered it a violation of the unwritten agreement between them. At about the same time, Shankar gave a break to singer Sharda and started promoting her as the new singing sensation in preference over Lata Mangeshkar. Jaikishan, however, stuck to Lata Mangeshkar for his compositions. In this period, Shankar and Jaikishan started taking individual contracts for films though every such film continued to show them together as the composers. Mohd. Rafi intervened and helped them settle their differences; however, it is conjectured that their relationship was not same as earlier and this impacted the quality of their compositions which had started exhibiting a decline (which is clearly noticeable in the movies released during the last phases of Jaikishan’s lifetime and those released just after his demise).
On the other hand, Jaikishan, Hasrat and Shankar all had denied, whenever quizzed on this topic, that there ever was any rift between them. In fact, according to Hasrat, the division of work was by mutual agreement to cope up with the heavy work load so that Shankar and Shailendra looked after one part of the work while Jaikishan and Hasrat on the other part but this division was not rigid; there was a lot of give and take between them even during this phase. Towards the end (just before Jaikishan’s untimely demise), in several of their last movies such as Jane Anjane (1971), Andaaz (1971), Ankhon Ankhon Mein, Shankar and Jaikishan were known to be working together. In retrospect, it appears that the so-called rift between Shankar and Jaikishan was blown out of proportion by the media and vested interests and was used later to downgrade Shankar in his post-Jaikishan years.
Since Shankar continued to support Sharda (post Sangam era) and even ghost-composed music for her film and non-film albums, it is said that Lata Mangeshkar became angry with him and discontinued singing for him. Whereas there may be some truth in this assertion, the other fact is that Lata Mangeshkar had stopped working with him after Sangam due to her anger against both Raj Kapoor and Shankar in making her sing “Budhha Mil Gaya” from Sangam which she was not keen as she did not feel comfortable with the lyrics of the song. Nevertheless, she continued singing for Jaikishan even after Sangam and till the end.
S-J enjoyed an unrivaled position in the Hindi film industry. During their heyday and even toward the later part of their career, they were the highest paid music directors in the industry. Barring stray exceptions, they were paid more than the leading actors and the promotional material of their films would give them more prominence than anyone else.
S-J staged a show in Shanmukhanad Hall, Mumbai in 1970 under the aegis of the Indian Navy. In terms of attendance and grandeur, it remains unsurpassed to this day, thus providing a public seal of approval to their leading status in the industry.
Jaikishan died in 1971 due to cirrhosis of liver, a disease caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. At the time of his death, the duo enjoyed an unparalleled popularity which was underlined by a massive turnout at his funeral procession. Gaylord, a restaurant at Churchgate (Mumbai) where Jaikishan used to be a regular visitor, mourned the death of its illustrious patron by lighting a candle on his favorite table for one month and keeping it out of bounds for other guests with the sign “Reserved for Mr. Jaikishan”.
After Jaikishan’s death, Shankar carried on with the banner of Shankar-Jaikishan alone (as per their mutual understanding made during their lifetime that in case of the demise of any one of them, the surviving partner will continue to work with the same team name). He was clearly hampered by numerous reasons such as the departures of his soul-mate Jaikishan and his favorite lyricist Shailendra, betrayal of Raj Kapoor, continued Shankar-bashing and false propaganda by his rivals and lack of motivation on his own part due to which his music appeared to suffer in comparison to S-J’s own high standards. Also, in spite of his continued experimentation on music, the projects themselves for which he worked did not turn out to be commercial successes due to which even his good scores went largely un-noticed.
According to Lata Mangeshkar herself, it was the late Mohd. Rafi who brought about a rapprochement between the two and she did start singing again for Shankar starting from Sohan Lal Kanwar’s `Sanyasi’ and several other films later. Although Shankar’s creations during this period for Lata as well as other singers like Rafi, Kishore, Manna Dey were quite good, most of these went un-noticed due to non-descript status of such films which bombed at the box office. His most-successful musical hit was Sanyasi in 1975 for which he scored all songs and the entire background score based upon SJ’s favorite Raag Bhairavi to prove the point that SJ’s Bhairavi was as much Shankar’s as that of Jaikishan.
After Sanyasi, although some of Shankar’s later songs did exhibit flashes of the old maestro’s brilliance, overall, these films (Aatmaram, Do-Jhooth, Garam Khoon, Papi Pet Ka Sawal Hai, Chorni, Eint ka Jawab Pathar) did not succeed in endearing him to leading production houses, though there were some exceptions. For example, actor Dharmendra had signed Shankar to compose the score for his film Bichchoo, however, since Shankar did not accept Sai’s (who was more keen in having Raj Kamal as MD) interference in his work, he opted out of the project. Eventually, the project itself was abandoned by Dharmendra.
Shankar was in the running for Raj Kapoor’s film Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), but was overlooked in favor of Laxmikant Pyarelal whose candidature was supported vigorously by Mukesh. Ironically, Mukesh owed his standing in the film industry primarily to S-J’s compositions.
Shankar was also considered for Raj Kapoor’s proposed film Param Vir Chakra (his case was supported by Raj Kapoor’s sons), but the project did not see the light of day and Shankar never returned to the RK camp.
Shankar died in 1987. His death received nominal media coverage and his funeral was attended only by his family and some friends. The film industry was hardly represented at his funeral (even Raj Kapoor did not attend), thus reinforcing the stereotype of its fickle-natured loyalties.
Raj Kapoor later paid glowing tributes to the colleague of his salad days in a televised interview. However, it was only after Raj Kapoor’s own death in 1988 that the significance of his association with S-J was brought out in great detail.
A prominent crossroad junction at Churchgate, Mumbai has been named after Shankar-Jaikishan.
Chandrakant Bhosle first noticed Shankarji, as Shankar was popularly known among his friends, in Mumbai in 1945 when Shankarji arrived in Mumbai with balle troup of guru Krishnankutty and dancer Hemawati. Bhosle was a ‘tabla’ player and had become closely associated with Shankarji. He used to play ‘rhythm’ in Shankarji’s orchestra from 1945 until Shankarji’s death. A night before Shankarji’s death, i.e. on 25 April 1987 Shankarji dropped Bhosle near Charni Road railway station where Bhosle stayed and drove off to his own residence at Churchgate. On 26 April Bhosle was, as usual, waiting for Shankarji at around 10.00 a.m. to take him to the studio, but Shankarji did not turn up so Bhosle went to the studio by taxi. All the musicians waited the whole day for Shankarji in the studio but he didn’t turn up. The next day, Bhosle read the news of Shankarji’s death on 26 April. Unfortunately, family members with whom Shankarji was staying did not inform Bhosle, Raj Kapoor or anybody from the film fraternity about Shankarji’s death.
It was Mr. Gokhale, who was once a cook in Shankarji’s house, who later became Pujari in Gora Ram Mandir at Thakurdwar, Mumbai, who informed people that Shankarji was cremated hastily on the day of his death, without the knowledge of others.